Imagine instead of dollars you were lending corn cobs, in return you would get ceramic pots or miniatures for your kids, no repayment schedule. Maybe a headache for Kiva and Paypal, or maybe not, since Kiva’s talented people will never cease to surprise us. The challenge is on!

Throughout Andean towns, villages and communities, el trueque does the trick - a system of exchange by which goods are directly traded for other goods without using a medium of exchange, such as money. El trueque is quite common in Peru and you may find it in local markets all over the Cusco region.

It is not about profiting, it’s all about sharing.

In the quiet town of San Pablo, province of Canchis, Cusco Department, 3488 meters above sea level, known for its Carnival (nation’s cultural heritage), every week, artisans from even higher lands like Pucará (aprox. 4000m), travel more than 3 hours carrying their handmade pottery to trade for agricultural goods harder to grow in their high land. Cobs are among their favorites in this time of the year. Filling up a pot with cobs, seems to be the fair price.

San Pablo district has around 5000 people. Although the urban center is well served by paved road (Cusco-Sicuani) and services (water and electricity), its area of 524,06km2, going as high as 5000m, makes it difficult to reach everyone, putting San Pablo in the list of the poor districts of Peru according to FONCODES, the Cooperation Fund for Social Development.

It was no coincidence going there. As a Kiva Fellow serving at field partner Asociacion Arariwa, we went to a few towns and communities covered by the Arariwa’s Sicuani branch in the province of Canchis, also responsible for the provinces of Acomayo and Canas, south of Cusco.

Arariwa is well known in the region. It was the first financial institution serving some remote areas with micro loans, giving people access to credit in their local communities. Still is one of the few MFIs that go to the borrowers’ home to disburse and collect, instead of making them travel far away to bigger cities.

It was a scouting trip for 2 Kiva Coordinators from Arariwa headquarters in Cusco, because, starting next month, Arariwa will post on Kiva’s website the loans from this region, strengthening their Anti-Poverty Focus.

So you may not have your cobs, but sure you will not miss the Arariwa’s borrowers on your next loan!  

We appreciate it ;-)

About the author

Mariana Oom

Mariana was born in Lisbon, Portugal. She is passionate about travelling and always eager for new experiences in new cultures. No wonder Mariana pursued an international career at the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency (AICEP Portugal Global). For more than a decade, she has been dedicated to the promotion of Portugal and the Portuguese companies and products around the world. Her last assignment was as the Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Consulate General of Portugal in Macao, P.R. China, cumulating with being the Portuguese Delegate at the Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries (Forum Macau). Previously, Mariana helped open and run the Agency branch in San Francisco, CA. She returned to Portugal as a desk officer for South America and Spain. Earlier positions and jobs were in marketing and international business. Mariana graduated from Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE, Lisbon) in Business and Administration Management, and studied at Glasgow University under the EU/Comett II program. After travelling to developing countries, she feels the need to contribute to a fairer world. She is taking a sabbatical to volunteer as a Kiva Fellow and is thrilled to working with field partners in Peru, Bolivia and India.